Tuesday, June 26, 2007

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Following up on Finkelstein

In Reason, Cathy Young follows up on Norman Finkelstein's tenure denial. Young's conclusion: "one may legitimately ask if the real political bias lay not in the denial of tenure to Finkelstein, but in the political science department's support for his tenure bid." I'm not quite as sanguine about the case as Young, but she may well have a point here.

Meanwhile, Alan Dershowitz reports the following in FrontPage Magazine:

According to a news story in today’s Chicago Sun-Times, a report filed against his tenure by three members of the Political Science faculty “claims that Finkelstein allegedly called a female staff member a ‘bitch.’” The report also claimed that Finkelstein “shunned” colleagues who disagreed with him and that his boorish conduct extended to “dramatically closing his office door when his colleague arrives.” In addition to describing his abusive sexist behavior toward a subordinate, the report characterized Finkelstein as “mean spirit” and as “unprofessional.”

This negative report was suppressed by Finkelstein supporters who leaked other, more favorable assessments.

I tried to find this story at the Sun-Times web site and couldn't find it. Props to anyone who can find this story.

UPDATE: Ask and you will receive. Props to Martin.

posted by Dan on 06.26.07 at 08:42 AM



posted by: Martin on 06.26.07 at 08:42 AM [permalink]


posted by: Martin on 06.26.07 at 08:42 AM [permalink]

Prof. Drezner,

The leaked "minority report" that was quoted in the Sun Times was written by three dissenting faculty members in the Political Science dept. Although the department voted in favor of tenure 9-3, the minority report went with the tenure file. From my conversations with some of my teachers at DePaul, the 9 in favor wrote an further addendum to counter the minority report, though was not put into the tenure file because it was not personally delivered by Dr. Finkelstein himself, but by a senior faculty in the department.

Recently (the most recent finals week in June), I sat in on the Faculty Governance Council meeting (the council for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences) where 100+ faculty sat to discuss what is actually happening. Most of the faculty in the Poly Sci Dept showed up, with the senior faculty taking the lead in denouncing the decision. To them, their judgment was virtually ignored. The College was upset because the Dean unilaterally overturned a 5-0 decision in support of giving Prof. Finkelstein tenure.

At this time, you probably know that a second professor was also denied - Dr. Mehrene Larudee. Her letter of rejection was only one page - too scant to even know why she was really rejected, though she is known to have sat on a faculty committee supporting Dr. Finkelstein. She was unanimously approved for tenure by both her dept, the College, and the Dean, before being denied at the highest levels.

The real fear is for the nontenured junior faculty. The reasons for both Dr. Finkelstein and Dr. Larudee's denial of tenure are dubious. As such the criteria for tenure was changed at some point, secretively - so the question is, what is it junior faculty have to do to get tenure? Some faculty I have talked to have already withdrawn some of their more "controversial" articles for publication out of fear that a red flag on their CV will spell the same trouble.

As a student, I am really concerned about my school's faculty and upset at what is happening at DePaul. Some of my fellow students who I am not affiliated with have taken matters into their own hands with a hunger strike (http://finkelgate.blogspot.com). I have have thought about joining them - I have taken one class with Dr. Finkelstein and read his new book Beyond Chutzpah (U of Cal Press).

I hope other posters who are scholars and are used to the rigors of the tenure process can give me some insight.

Is this normal? How often at your schools are lower level tenure decisions changed at the top? Am I right to be wary of my administration? What should/can be done? Are we to accept the decision of our administration and let them dispose of the best instructor I have ever had?

posted by: Fuxing Li on 06.26.07 at 08:42 AM [permalink]


In the vast majority of instances, tenure cases which are denied at "higher levels" of the administration are, in fact, the right decision. Many departments are profoundly dysfunctional, and send up tenure cases that are at best weak, and at worst completely unjustifiable. They do so for a variety of reasons: because they like the individual personally, and can't bring themselves to say "no;" because they allow politics to trump merit; because they themselves have weak records; etc.

Note that I am *not* saying that the Finkelstein decision was the right one. Rather, I just want to point out that, instead of such reversals causing you to be wary of the administration, in many cases you should see it as a good thing: that is, as the administration taking its role in the tenure process seriously.

posted by: C. Zorn on 06.26.07 at 08:42 AM [permalink]

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